Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How A Bad Date May Improve My Library's Marketing

Let me tell you about my weirdest date

Yesterday, someone at my work (I don't know who), brought in 3 boxes of dried dates. Not sure where they came from, but the boxes are shiny, so I picked one up, grabbed a date (yummy!), and then looked at the box more closely.
I told you it was shiny.
But the front isn't the interesting part. The back is:

Crazy claims about dates.
Can you read that text? According to the box, "modern science" has confirmed that dates will help cure everything from your sexual debility to your obesity to your childbirth difficulties.

I swear this has to do with libraries

I am skeptical of the claims made by the date box. They're not even logical, let alone "confirmed" (stating a thing does not make it so). So I did what I do when I'm skeptical - I mocked the box. And as I was reading some of these random, not-actually-confirmed, not-actually-logical claims to a coworker of mine, I started thinking about what the company was trying to do. As far as I can tell, they're trying to show that the dates are good for everyone! Everyone should eat the dates! You should eat these dates, and then buy more! But by trying to appeal to everyone, they lost me as a customer. The company actually strikes me as a bunch of nutjobs now, and I'm not inclined to go find more dates to buy. I mean, they were fun while they lasted, but I won't be back.This marketing ploy was totally ineffective. And it's common speak in library land.

In which I get to the point
I get it. There are people who luuuuurve libraries. Generally, I'm one of them. Those are the people who will agree when you just make vague statements about how libraries are awesome for every demographic of a given population (like they did about dates on the box). I'm not saying it is untrue, per se (unlike the claims on the date box. I don't think those are true), but that when you're portraying yourself as everything to everyone, in vague terms, then you're not going to connect with anyone who doesn't already see the value of libraries - and that's not our target audience.

Thinking about my own library's marketing efforts, I can see that we've fallen into this trap. (And I swore I wouldn't, when I was in library school. So annoying.) We've got a wide variety of audiences to appeal to, and we don't have a lot of staff to do it (a commond refrain among librarians. Everyone join in!). We genuinely do have resources, knowledge, and skills that can help people from all groups in my organization - and to library staff, the value of the library is so self-evident that the generalities don't seem vague at all. Of course we can be of assistance to a geologist headed out for a field season, a junior policy analyst, and an Assistant Deputy Minister - and they should just know that, right? Wrong! So they're not using the library, and that is a problem.

What we should be doing is making statements about the library that resonate with the clients, rather than making statements about the clients that resonate with the library. The date box statements are navel-gazing; they're about how absolutely fantastic dates are, but none of them were about why the dates were directly relevant to the particular issue I was looking to resolve (namely "you're hungry, and we're delicious!")

Don't get me wrong - we don't always fall into this trap. When we're one on one with a client, or presenting library services to a specific group, we're great at identifying our clients' particular pain points when it comes to information they need, and addressing them. And that's what gets us the repeat customers. We're just not doing it in our more general marketing - because it's tough. It's way easier to just be general, and trust that that's enough.

But it isn't enough. It's what gets us overlooked, and what puts us at risk for losing our libraries due to budget cuts. And at the risk of seeming like a tease, I've got what I think are some good ideas on how we (I) can make this situation better at my library... but this is plenty long enough for today, so it will have to wait until later. I'm excited to be thinking about this, though. And excited to be working in a place where I believe I'll be able to make a change, too.

My Hometown

(There's a more serious, library-y blog post coming later today.)

So, I'm from Windsor, Ontario. People don't usually believe me when I say it's not all that rough, but it hasn't had a murder in 22 months. This is especially striking when compared to Detroit's murder rates (which are discussed in the article).

This reminds me of a story my great-aunt told me. She was a police officer in Detroit in the '70s, and she and her coworkers were discussing incidents of rape, and wondering how numbers in Detroit compared to those in Windsor. So they called up the cops in Windsor, who couldn't remember when the last time they'd had one was. (Yes, I know, this doesn't mean that there weren't any. But it's illustrative.) Needless to say, the Detroit cops were floored.

Windsor's an odd town. I don't think you can love it if you weren't raised there. And I don't want to live there again, I don't think. But it's still got lots going for it (and I'd rather live in Windsor again than in London, Ontario. For sure), in some odd ways.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Just Finished Reading - The Hunger Games

So, the hubby and I have just finished reading the Hunger Games series (aloud. To one another. I shall explain), and I'd like to tell you what I think of it. Leave now if you're deathly afraid of spoilers. I'll try to be vague, but make no promises.
These are them!

Okay, so I started reading the first book, and realized that the story was going to be really compelling. Like, I wasn't going to want to put it down, and was going to have a hard time not-reading it on the 6-ish hour drive to the cottage for the Civic Holiday weekend. Unfortunately, ignoring your husband while trapped in a small metal & plastic box for 6 hours isn't really kosher, so... as soon as I realized that I was hooked, I went back to the beginning, and started reading the book out loud to him, so he'd be hooked too. (This is how drug dealers work, yes?) We powered through it that weekend, started book 2 after my laser eye surgery, and finished book 3 this past weekend.

All of the books would benefit from a good copy edit. But comma splices and sentence fragments (ugh) aside, the first book was a great story.

Unfortunately, it was downhill from there. Some of my problems with books 2 & 3? Increases in the boooooring teenage self-reflexive angst, and cop-outs on the action from the author (juuuuuust when it starts to look juicy, the heroine is injured and wakes up in the hospital. Cheap.) But mostly it's that the stuff I really liked in Book 1 (who will survive the arena? How will the heroine do it? And what about the boy?) are lost in stilted, not particularly inventive, political drama. Bleh.

If you liked Lord of the Flies and/or the first Hunger Games book (uhh... The Hunger Games) I'd strongly recommend reading Battle Royale rather than wasting your time with Catching Fire and Mockingjay. (If you're really curious and insist on knowing what happens, though, I suppose I could fill you in.) Battle Royale is amazing - way better than Hunger Games. And doesn't have any silly sequels for me to complain about. Win win!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Post-Cottage Monday

So, we were lucky enough to spend last weekend at the cottage with my in-laws. Seriously, it is tough to be back at work after a long weekend of this:

Gorgeous lake

with this guy:
Gorgeous husband.

But back at work I am! And it is going to be a busy week; the summer lull is officially over. For those of you interested in what a week in the life of an acting Manager, Licensing and Access Services librarian type is like, here's what I've got on my plate:
  • Complete drafting an outline for updates to our Collection Development policy (which was mostly written but never officially deployed), including suggestions for appendices/supporting documents. Meet about it on Tuesday to discuss with colleagues. Keep working on it. Woohoo, policy suite development.
  • Review contract with publisher to see how much wiggle room we have in dropping/changing subscriptions for this year's renewals; if necessary, convene team of subject specialists to review subscriptions and make renewal recommendations.
  • Touch base with team members on renewals for a different contract.
  • Meet with video production team (meeting not yet scheduled) for the video capture of the Deputy Minister's Leadership Forum, which I've been asked to participate in.
    • Move meeting scheduled on the day of the DM's Leadership Forum, as I'm going to be out of the office that day. Sorry folks, paper beats rock, and DM beats all.
  •  AGM Planning team teleconference Tuesday, and follow up (including, something tells me, drafting communications materials) throughout the week.
  • Populate the new contract management spreadsheet. This is overdue, and it's going to require lots of attention to detail and combing over contracts. This may be my toughest task this week, no joke. Tasks that require a significant amount of attention to detail are tough for me; I'm definitely more of a big-picture thinker.
  • Try to schedule a meeting to review a Drupal module that we may be able to implement which would take the place of the contract management spreadsheet that I'm going to spend many painful hours working on, because we do need an updated tool NOW, and can't really wait for the Drupal module to be implemented. 
    • But we definitely need something better than a spreadsheet, so if the Drupal module looks like it won't work, I'm going to be outlining requirements for a database. Which I then will probably have to contruct. But next week. 
    • And if the Drupal module looks like it will work, I'm sure I'll have a hand in that, too. Again, hopefully next week.
  • And of course, putting out fires and responding to client requests as things come up.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Update on the Black Thumb

I, friends, have a much bemoaned black thumb. I excel at killing plants, like it or not. To add insult to injury, I have certified Master Gardeners and horticulturists in my family. They say talent skips a generation, and you should have seen my Mimi's garden, but this is one ability I did not inherit. And yet, every once in a while, I give it a try. I was bitten by the "try to keep a plant alive" bug while honeymooning in Hawai'i - see, they've got lovely plumeria trees all over, and I really liked them. And then I came across plumeria cuttings (called nematodes) that you could bring home! And plant! So I decided to give it a try. (But I also brought one home for my sister, and my father-in-law. Diversification: my key to success!)

I almost left it too long (um, it had started to sprout in its bag! Oops.) but a while ago (a month? ish, anyways), I stuck my green stick in a pot, and brought it to work where I thought it would get more light. It looked like this:
According to the tag, it was supposed to get leaves in its first year, and flowers in its second. These are photos from last night (it is at home now, not at the office):
It grew a spike, and awesome yellow flowers!
The twisty spikes are flowers about to bloom.

Not only is it not dead, my plumeria is a total overachiever! Skipped leaves, and went straight to flowering. What this means for its future, I don't know (child prodigies usually don't turn out well), but I am SO PLEASED. Seriously, just look at it! The flowers totally don't even look real. Hurray for tropical plants and honeymoon reminders!
So pretty

Currently Reading - Freedom

So, you may or may not know that I am a total Kat Rosenfeld fangirl. She doesn't blog as much as she used to, but I've got her blog and her Tumblr feeds in my Google Reader, so I see it pretty quickly when she does. The husband does too (I got him hooked a while back).

So clearly, when she posted these book recommendations, I needed to check them out. Literally, from the library. Post haste. I logged onto the Ottawa Public Library website (which I love. I also love their app. Yay, technology!), figured out which ones were on the shelves at the library near us*, and requested the rest. I stopped at the library on my way home, and picked up the three in question (Freedom, My Year of Meats, and The Gargoyle), and headed home. When Tim got home, he saw the pile, looked at me, and was like "She posted those today!" It was pretty funny.

So! I'm currently reading Freedom, by Jonathan Franzen.
It's pretty good. I'm not in looooove with it, but I'm liking it, and definitely interested in giving it a chance. I think it's starting to pick up, which is nice. I'll let you know what I think when I finish!

*I LOVE living a 5-minute walk from the library. I lived right next to a library at my old place, too. No joke, when we move, proximity to a library would be a welcome feature in a new house.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Attack of the Yogurt Monster

So, I've gotten in the habit of making deeeelicious smoothies in the morning. And I plan on keeping it up! But, a half a cup per day, this means that I go through a significant amount of plain yogurt (seriously. If someone were keeping an eye on our recycling, I don't know what they'd think). So when I saw a blog post about this recipe, I decided to give it a try. Worst case, I waste a bunch of milk. Best case, I become self-yogurt-sufficient!

So last night, I gave it a try. The milk took FOREVER to heat up (I ended up having to turn the crock pot up to high, because it was just not getting hot enough), but then took much less time to cool than mentioned in the recipe (which was nice, because I really didn't want to be up at midnight, turning hot milk into yogurt).

Milk, Crock Pot, Digital Thermometer, Recipe... ready to go!
After it was innoculated, I stuck the Crock Pot in the oven with the light on, and went to bed for a good night's sleep. I was a little nervous when I went to check on it this morning. Did it set?

Shroedinger's yogurt

When I took the yogurt out of the oven, it was still warm, but definitely yogurt-y! It's a bit thin tasting, so I think next time I'd use whole milk (we had 2% at home, so I used that), but I'll definitely be doing this again. It's way cheaper (about 2$ worth of milk for 2 quarts of yogurt, instead of about 3.50$ for 750ml!), and pretty low effort. Hurray!

Mmm, yogurt!

It's baaaaaaaack....

I really should not be left unsupervised.

So, it turns out that now that I'm done with wedding planning (long engagements are nice, I guess, but it gave me way too much time to explore wedding options. I am never doing that again!), it turns out that I have lots of time to think about things. And notice stuff. And gradually, thoughts like "I could blog about that" started creeping into my head. And then I bought a smartphone (Android) with a data plan, and I bet I can blog from my phone, too.

So! I'm de retour, internet.